More on the Upcoming Dillon Supply Company Warehouse Rezoning

Dillon Supply Company warehouse

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According to the May 26, 2015 Raleigh planning commission agenda, the rezoning request for the Dillon Warehouse Company building is at bat. I wanted to get into it today before the meeting and maybe follow up in the comments after the results.

For a little background, jump to this post:

Multiple Rezoning Requests on the Table

If you want to get into it, search the city’s website for case Z-1-15.

The request is to rezone the group of properties, listed in the case, for buildings up to 20 stories with some conditions. Here are a few key ones that stuck out to me:

  • Requires Urban General frontage standards for W. Martin Street with stipulation regarding retention of existing building façade.
  • Requires developer to use “best efforts” to maintain building façade fronting on W. Martin Street.
  • Requires a stepback for buildings over 5 stories and 75’ that front W. Martin Street.
  • Requires that at least 65% of the southern block will have a building that is 9 stories in height or less.

There are a few more that deal with parking but we’ll get to that soon. Just like the story at 301 Hillsborough, there are those for and against this rezoning.

The opponents claim that 20-story buildings are out of place with the warehouse district and that removing one of the great warehouses would be detrimental to the area’s vitality. Those very pro-development want to see intense urban growth in the city’s core as well as making the most for our public dollars being invested across the street in Raleigh Union Station.

Reading these conditions, it sounds like work has been done to perhaps make a compromise.

I thought about it a lot and I lean more toward pro-growth and getting some bang for my dollar in the Union Station project. However, I do love the warehouse district and for us to even have a district at all we need, well, warehouses.

My fear isn’t losing Dillon Supply as it sounds like there are conditions in place to help maintain the facade. I’ll be interested to hear discussion about the 9-story cap on 65% of the southern block as that may limit what a developer can do compared to 20. Still, 9 floors of active space is way better than the zero we have today.

My biggest fear is of course my favorite topic. Parking.

I wrote about what the Citrix project has done to the warehouse district and I fear the project here will do the same.

Less intense development = less of a case for transit. That means large parking decks will be built and downtown is still not moving closer to being a multi-modal area. Raleighites will still find it more convenient to drive to this location, even when across the street from our central transit station.

On top of that, the parking situation with this rezoning leaves some possible undesirable effects. I’m pulling all this from the agenda, emphasis added by me:

However, there are several urban frontage requirements that would not necessarily be addressed, notably design standards that would require structured parking to have active uses on the ground story between the sidewalk and the structure. The conditions do require that W. Hargett and W. Martin Streets have active uses between any parking structure and the rightof-way. The conditions also offer that at least 45% of the width of any parking structure on S. West and S. Harrington Streets would have a “non-parking use” between the structure and the right-of-way. While this provision does offer some guarantee of active uses (or at least nonparking uses) on the ground-floor on these streets, it still leaves a significant portion of building area – some of which would be directly across the street from Union Station – that would not be required to have active uses.

We could see long stretches of the future development being long, blank walls (hello Citrix!) which doesn’t add anything to the urban form of the area. Again, that’s less desirable here because of Union Station being right across the street.

I’ll end here with the conclusion from the agenda:

The proposed rezoning is consistent with the Future Land Use Map and would allow an appropriate density and mix of uses on a site located next to the city’s future transit hub. However, the proposal is not consistent with the Urban Form Map as well as key policies from the Comprehensive Plan. The Urban Form Map and policy guidance from the Comprehensive Plan require an urban frontage designation or a conditioned equivalent, the latter of which the proposal has not fully provided.

In my opinion, the request makes me nervous for the future of the warehouse district. I’m not talking about torn down warehouses. I’m worried about the warehouses being shells for parking decks. I want to see the warehouses incorporated into complex building plans that are interesting and are activating the sidewalks. That’s urban to me.

I hope that the commission can take pause and not be swayed by an opportunity for parking to support Union Station masked by the face of “new development that supports transit.” For me, I need to see this issue improved for my support.

I’ll definitely be watching this discussion and let’s get a conversation going afterwards.

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41 Comments

  1. Leo, you lay out the classic “chicken and the egg” scenario regarding parking. We can’t build more densely because we can’t provide parking. We don’t need transit options because we don’t have the density. It’s maddening.
    When a developer finally pulls the trigger on a substantial retail development downtown, we are going to face the very same issues and I’d love to see the groundwork laid down now to shape the topic toward less parking. If planned within walking distance to residential development, there’s no reason why an urban retail complex can’t be provided with less parking. Providing less parking would allow for more of the $ spent on development to go toward revenue generating real estate: resulting in more options for the residents and more profit for the developer.

  2. There is part of me that wants to maintain the character of The Warehouse District, but given the most recent fiasco with the height limits, I don’t care. While many still cheer about Citrix’s HQ, I am not as ecstatic with what we got, which is basically a renovated warehouse and a parking deck that overwhelms its surroundings; I guess this structure didn’t offend any of the “sensitive” residents of The Dawson who care so much about “the character of the neighborhood”.

    Leo has already voiced one of the concerns we should have, and that is the relationship between parking decks and the existing buildings. Just like Leo, I want to see more elegant – we may call them complex – structures, which will incorporate all the elements that could transform The Warehouse District into a more urban district. The truth is, we don’t have the kind of warehouse/industrial buildings that Durham and Winston-Salem do. We are not Richmond or Portland, with their comparable districts (Shockoe Slip and Pearl District, respectively). I am not even sure we can maintain the existing collection of warehouses, but then again I am not sure that many of them have much to offer. Personally, I would like to see developers focusing on parcels that could easily be transformed. 20 floors is not a bad “limit” for most of this district, which could benefit from a nice collection of brownstones/row houses, residential/hotel mid-rises and a few office high-rises.

    Just my 2 cents…

  3. Ernest, I agree with you & I believe that the sky is the limit @ The Warehouse Area! I sure do hope that we hear some info. in June on Charter Square North. Dwight

  4. Dwight, do you know when Charter Square south is slated to open. I’m hoping when it dose they will finally let the north tower out of the bag?

  5. Adrian, Brian said that Charter South would probably open in June & his info. is super reliable!

  6. Just to clarify: being close to Union Station does not really make this a transit-oriented development. Union Station for the foreseeable future will be for Amtrak travel (i.e. inter-city rather than intra-city) so Raleighites will not actually be traveling to this development by transit because of Union Station. If a rail transit station is built nearby or the bus station is relocated then it could become a destination development served by transit.

  7. We need to get beyond thinking that transit oriented development meaning only local rail service. Transit oriented development relies on stops being walkable communities and that can be focused on NOW. We don’t have to have the promise of local rail service to start making these sorts of changes in our communities. We don’t need transit in place to question parking ratios for retail, services and amenities that will primarily serve the local community. We don’t need rail to start a conversation about shared parking within our community. For example, why on earth would we let another Citrix build a site in our core and have parking that used only by them? Why wouldn’t we require business to share their decks after hours and on weekends? Why wouldn’t we rethink parking requirements for retail in favor or centralized parking infrastructure?

  8. Somebody somewhere has to give way to height. This is downtown and the people in the Dawson or Warehouse district should not be able to view themselves as unable to have something tall built around them. I work in the Wells Fargo Capital center and last time I checked, this building is a lot taller than the rest of the buildings around it. The city needs to set the standard that tall projects and urban development will be coming to downtown. There are plenty of places in Raleigh you can live and work and not have to see tall buildings, downtown is not one of them.

    Bob …out

  9. Both John and mike make excellent points. On one hand, we cannot see the new developments in The Warehouse District as transit-oriented if there is no local transit to talk about. At least, we should not make that assumption. On the other hand, Union Square could only benefit our plans for building transit-oriented neighborhoods/districts. It all depends on how we bring all the components together.

    Now please forgive me if I make any dumb assumptions, but if Union Square is a project led by the City of Raleigh – with federal assistance, of course – isn’t it safe to assume that in the future we’ll see more transportation options tied into this project? I recall the first incarnation of this project (many years ago) which included every transportation option under its umbrella. Maybe there is a long-term plan to make The Warehouse District a public transit hub…

    Another good point John raised was the shared parking. I am afraid there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this, but we can definitely create a strong cooperation between public and private entities that will prove beneficial to all. If the incentives are there, the private sector will respond.

  10. Well said Bob!!! Too bad common sense is not on the menu for some downtown dwellers… Can’t wait for the day when our city leaders will be more concerned about blending heights, great architectures and mixed-uses, and less about the number of floors.

  11. I’m going to say one more thing in response to Earnest. I know that some readers mentioned that our warehouse district Is different than in other cities and I’m sure that is true. While I was sitting at a Durham Bulls game a few weekends ago, I was looking at the buildings that run the outfield wall and was imagining what the warehouse district would look like with building like that in it?? I am an advocate for more height, but to Earnest’s point, it needs modernization and architecture period!

    Finally…Bob….out!

  12. I mentioned Union Station a lot here but should have also included the Bus Station consolidation plan, where Union Station and Moore Square will compliment each other as bus hubs. That plan is underway in a very serious way.

    From my point of view, we are fighting each other with large investments near Union Station but allowing the “same old story” with regards to parking across the street. We SHOULD be able to reduce the amount of parking to some degree with the hopes that the transit investments can pick up the slack. Slowly, new developments around it will follow.

    This should be the next step in transitioning downtown into a more multi-modal area.

  13. Good point, John. The “chicken and egg” issue is in full combat with Raleigh (city). Raleigh (government) is attempting to find compromises that address where we are and where we want to be but we can’t lose the warehouses that provide a backbone for the district or sacrifice places for people for places for cars.

  14. Rest assured that this issue with parking is not a Raleigh issue alone. Just in the last year or so, I attended several commission meetings for the city of Miami Beach (where I split my time) and was one of the voices that was pushing the city to reduce their parking requirement for new hotel development. Even though the city had data showing that only about 25% of hotel guests in Miami Beach come with a vehicle, it was like pulling teeth to get the city to reduce the requirement from 1 space per room to .5 space per room. In the end, we prevailed in our argument that Miami Beach needed to do everything it could to discourage car use, not encourage it in its tiny footprint.
    Miami Beach is a perfect example of (eventually) making decisions that might be seen as transit oriented without having any rail service whatsoever. Typically what’s a good decision for transit/rail is also a good decision for pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders too and encourages a multimodal response to transportation issues.
    DT Raleigh is on the right path with all the new housing being built in its various neighborhoods. All of these new residents will contribute to a variety of ways of getting from point A to point B when not in a car. These residents will continue to shape the daily core of customers to businesses and services. They will sometimes need a car but, more often than not, they won’t.
    I am not convinced that the city leaders understand this. I say this because of where I hear the city wants “a” grocer to be instead of talking about all the various places that a grocer would actually be successful in drawing customers on foot. What I don’t want to see is the city pushing for a DT grocer where a greater percentage of people will still access it by car like Cameron Village for all trips. Certainly there will be trips to any DT grocer that will require the use of ones car or taxi or uber, etc. but that doesn’t mean that trips for fewer items can’t be accomplished on foot if placed properly in high density neighborhoods.

  15. Everyone thinks the Union Station is all in one project. This is just amtrak station nothing else. Future upgrades for bus etc years or decades away. Bus station upgrades to Moore Square moving forward. You can’t reduce parking to force rail/transit issues. Good luck. City code requires parking for building & retail space. You can’t rely on Amtrak to solve your parking deck issues. With the low income housing requirements & height limits this council is dooming these projects in warehouse district to mediocrity.

  16. I am on agreement in regards to the “over-the-top” parking deck for Citrix. Maybe they also had the idea that there sign/name would be on the deck as another reason to build the tall deck as high as they did,(added bonus)? Either way, I am so hoping beyond hope that John Kane’s new complex will include a good mix of hidden parking, office, hotel and apt/condo….I can dream can’t I? ;-)

  17. Can someone please explain to me what is so great about this Dillon Warehouse? What makes it so worthy of being saved? I think there should be more discussion on what will be sacrificed in the way of development opportunities within that block should the warehouse remain. No one seems to be talking about this.

    First let’s talk about what would be lost in razing the building … not so much in my opinion. There is nothing remarkable in the way of architecural appeal. The masonry trade certainly isn’t being honored the way it is with the Durham tobacco warehouses. The Dillon warehouse was built strictly to provide a utility space for steel fabrication operations because the site was close to the railroad. It has a flat cement floor, plain brick walls, and a simple metal roof. Seriously, what is so great about this structure that it deserves to be saved? Is steel fabrication a cornerstone of Raleigh’s economy of yesteryear as tobacco was for Durham? Where is the compelling historical significance? Other than being old not much else is there in my opinion.

    What is the opportunity cost if we save this structure? First and foremost, any new development must be designed around the placement of the existing walls and foundation thereby limiting what is possible structurally. This could be a huge cost actually. A lot of you talk about how important urban form is when it comes developments in this district. The new Citrix building has been critized for not providing enough in this regard. Ahh yes … the Citrix building is a revamped warehouse, isn’t it! I think the finished product is great considering the constraints put on the designers. They did have to address structural issues as well but this was at a small scale compared to a Dillon revamp.

    In truth the old warehouse Citrix converted did make for a nice starting point towards what they were trying to achieve. Likewise the new Union Station is making nice use out of an existing structure … the starting point is suitable for the intended purpose. I don’t think the same can be said for this Dillon warehouse though and let’s keep in mind that this structure covers the entire block. Do we really want to constrain what can be built within an entire city block for the sake of saving a structure that offers so little in the way of historical or architectural significance? I think there is a lot more to be gained than lost in tearing this one down. If you want great urban form build something new that precisely meets that objective. A new structure can be designed to honor the legacy and “vibe” of the area.

  18. The warehouse is NOT being saved. Just some of the small elements to make the new building blend in with the “warehouse district”.

  19. @mike – I saw this listed in rezoning application. “Keeping the building along Martin St. is encouraged”. The picture Leo provided above shows side of building in question. I don’t think this should be saved.

    4.7 Designated Historic Resources
    The site is across W. Martin Street from the National Register-listed Depot Historic District.

    Impact Identified: Retention of the existing building along Martin Street is encouraged.
    Architectural delineation and step backs of new buildings and/or additions that reflect the
    scale of buildings in the historic district are encouraged.

  20. What were the results of the May 26th meeting? Also, wasn’t there a vote about the the 12 story hotel on south Wilmington that was catching some flack because of the Pope House? Did anyone hear back on that?

  21. I really don’t understand the need to maintain this area as a warehouse district. I don’t think we should go in there and tear them all down either. The footprint of this area is very different than most of downtown, minus downtown Raleigh’s core.

    Meaning, this is one of the only flat areas in downtown Raleigh making it very favorable for foot traffic. Coupled with that, it’s proximity to the Red Hat Amphitheater and the Raleigh convention center make this an ideal place to put a large concentration of hotels with ample ground floor retail. Blended with some residential. This is also the best spot for a grocery store, IMO.

    The Raleigh convention center is in serious need of more hotels rooms within downtown if it ever wants to be able to attract some of the larger conventions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city of Raleigh’s size that has fewer hotel rooms downtown. The “new car smell” of the convention center isn’t going to last forever, so we really need to take advantage of the opportunity while we can.

    Just because Durham was able to revitalize the Tobacco Campus area doesn’t mean Raleigh needs to try and follow suit. Our warehouse district is nothing like Durham’s. A ton of money was put into making the Tobacco Campus what it is today and I don’t think Raleigh is capable of replicating it, nor should they. So, instead of trying to preserve an area that nobody cared about, until recently, take advantage of what you can do with that area and maybe you will create an place that’s actually worthy of being designated as a district.

  22. Here is another point. People like to discuss the ware house district because it is a likable area and people have different points of view considering its development. May I point to North Harrington, North West St, and the area East of Glenwood South going over to the Capital Distirict? We have seen the West, the Qurom, and now the Link apartments being built. This area is seriously underdeveloped. West Street doesn’t even have a line painted down the middle of it. And there is absolutely no historical value in this area to hold things up. I can understand some height restrictions on Glenwood South, but the area West of it should be prime for development. Thoughts on that?

  23. I will also agree with Bob and Chad about the nature of The Warehouse District. In the future, we may see a complete transformation, for the better I hope. This district can become everything we want to see for our downtown: a center for technology companies, a transportation hub, a mixed-use area with a variety of architectures. Generally, a great place to live, work and play.

    To the district’s defense, some buildings deserve a second chance. They can provide home to smaller [innovative] companies that may not have hundreds of employees, need space soon and don’t care for their logo to appear in the skyline. As we move forward, many of the existing warehouses – or any other buildings – will disappear. If there was a single developer, or a group of developers, who could buy the entire district and redevelop it in an urban fashion, I would not mind, but as is we may need to maintain some of the elements of our Warehouse District.

    As for the heights, you know where I stand on this issue… I hope the city wakes up and doesn’t stick with the stupid height limits, except for where it makes a lot of sense. I can envision anything from brownstones to 30-story buildings, but for now I will be happy to see structures with character that improve the urban feel of the area.

    By the way, Allscripts is going to occupy most of the new building going up at North Hills East. The N&O mentions a 12-story tower, but what they mean is the 12-story office component + the 6-story parking deck. Kane’s proposal for The Warehouse District would have been IDEAL for Allscripts. Who knows, when the company needs more space, maybe Kane will be ready for a 30-story building in downtown ;)

  24. I stand corrected about Allscripts. The N&O was actually right. Kane will build a 12-story building separately from the already planned ones. I know there is a 29-story tower planned, but the 12-story is a separate deal and will be built near the retirement community. TBJ has a rendering and judging from it I would say it looks good!!!

  25. John Kane sees opportunity and goes for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sails thru city council and the Dillon building starts construction before several that have been planned for years (Edison office, Residence Inn). I’m guessing 12-15 floors for the residential tower across the street?

  26. One issue that has always bothered me about downtown is that Mr. Kane has already put forth at least 4 proposals for 4 buildings at NH’s which will probably be built before he announces or even submits anything to be reviewed by the city. Downtown buildings seem to take 6 months to be reviewed while buildings say at NH’s are submitted and reviewed and then finally consruction started within a month….strange but that’s how it seems….

  27. Indeed, it is frustrating to see how long everything major takes if proposed for downtown. Naturally, our downtown district has to become the crown jewel of our city – we are still far from that goal – and this will take a lot more scrutiny, longer review process, etc.

    However, Mr Kane seems to be a doer, a man of action. Where others build a midrise and want to make sure they are recognized for that, Mr Kane sees the opportunity and knows that he is the one to make things happen. Most developers seem to feel that we owe them something when they build downtown. So, kudos to Mr Kane for what he does for North Hills and Stanhope Village, as well as for what he is about to do for downtown.

    On a side note, it is amazing to see North Hills East developing into something so beautiful, despite its semi-urban nature. A series of mid-rise apartment buildings and hotels completed or under way, a 17-story office building built, a 18-story office building under construction, a 28-story and a 12-story office buildings planned, and a 15-story apartment building. Not to mention the possibility for one more tower next to the 28-story one as well as the parking lot in front of the main North Hills area – the original plans called for two 15-story office buildings. Simply AMAZING!!!

  28. Maybe if John Kane can get this project done without too much of a circus it will encourage him to do more downtown. I watched a little of the video Leo provided, he mentioned the need for hight based on the price of land downtown. Obviously if he is saying that, other developers have the same thought process.

  29. Amen to that, Bob. I hope that Mr Kane and his staff help bring a little common sense to the whole development process. Maybe help the city officials get rid of some fuzzy terms when they communicate with developers. There has to be flexibility along with some [common sense] standards.

    Height may or may not be an issue there, although I couldn’t help laughing when I heard about “neighbors”. I am sorry, but there aren’t many of those to ask. In fact, there is not much of a neighborhood. Sure, a block away you have 3 residential buildings and also a few townhomes, but let’s face it: Nobody should be talking about heights as if the proposed buildings will block the sunlight.

    Thus far, we have 3 players who can shape Raleigh’s downtown in a major way: Highwoods, Dominion and Kane Realty. Sure, there are others, but not many can actually deliver the way the aforementioned entities can. Can’t wait for the day when some developer builds some elegant brownstones. Downtown Raleigh needs some of them.

  30. Hey Ernest: In the future, if North Hills can have a 28-29 story tower, why in the world can’t 301/307 Hillsborough St. , Warehouse District have one? A good question !!! ?

  31. FYI, North Hills East was done as a master plan with all the zoning, planning, transportation and utilities worked out. After approved MP then brings in plans for each site without preliminary plan review etc . Usually Kane’s staff bring in plans for CTR (coordinated team review) or life & safety review anyway. They pay for it but get comments and review of plans (no permits) before they actually submit. Not saying they are A team cause they are not but they get it right to get permits. They don’t have master plan for Dillon site. So not sure if he owns it yet but it doesn’t get rezoning & building height he wants he will not purchase. Most likely condition in purchase contract. great site Leo and great comments
    Oh yea Charter Square should get CO June 5 or 8th.

  32. @Dwight: As BC said, Kane and his team did the work a long time ago and they were approved for buildings as tall as 365ft, or 35 floors (in the case of residential). Now, with the Raleigh 2030 plan in place, we are going to see more of the same crap all over. My prediction is, and I hope I am totally wrong, that we will see a lot of “fat” buildings. While they will be only 20 floors, each level may end up as large as 20,000sf. The developers don’t care, as long as they can build enough place to lease. Many large companies prefer that to having 10,000sf or less per floor. The step-backs would force a skinnier, yet taller building, but if the developers can get the square footage in a shorter building, with smaller step-backs, they will be just as happy.

    I hope this scenario will not happen because we will end up with boxy structures, or something close to boxy.

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